US selling F-16 jets to Türkiye not linked to Sweden, Finland’s NATO bids: Envoy

There is "no linkage" between the US decision on the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye and the NATO accession bids of Sweden and Finland, the US envoy in Ankara said on Thursday.

Speaking to a group of reporters, Ambassador Jeff Flake said his country is "always seeking as many high-level engagements as we can between our two countries."

On the Türkiye-US Strategic Mechanism meeting held in Washington yesterday between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Flake said the two parties "addressed many important issues."

"Obviously, Secretary Blinken thanked Foreign Minister Cavusoglu for Turkey's work with the (Urkaine) grain initiative, with its strong, consistent support for Ukrainian sovereignty, and for the support that it gives to NATO – (For) 70 years (Türkiye has been an) important and valued member," said Flake.

On the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets and F-16 upgrade kits, the US diplomat reiterated that the process is "now in tiered review before the Congress."

Saying that "there is no linkage" between the F-16 sale and the NATO membership bids of Sweden and Finland, whose approval from Türkiye is pending, Flake added: "The US Congress has invested a great deal in this war, to aid Ukraine in fighting back Russian aggression, both monetarily and leading this coalition. They see this as very important, but there is no linkage."

“The desire to see Sweden and Finland join NATO is universal in Congress," he said.

Flake continued to say that "there is a technical, I think, a certain number of days that the (congressional) committee are given to review this in the tiered review process ... but those aren't firm dates."

In October, Ankara made a request to Washington for 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits, while the State Department last week informally notified Congress of the potential sale.

On Türkiye's talks with Syria's Assad regime, Flake said: “The US remains opposed to engaging and normalizing relations with the Assad regime, given what he has done to his people over the years. We still are opposed to that."

On security issues related to northern Syria, where Turkish officials have warned of a “terrorist corridor” being formed along its border if action is not taken, Flake said talks and dialogue between Türkiye and the US continue.

Türkiye has long voiced opposition to US cooperation with the terrorist YPG/PKK, one of the terrorist groups that have made the border a source of violence. They have also warned that a Turkish cross-border ground offensive may be needed to eliminate the YPG/PKK terrorist threat

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – recognized as a terror group by the US, EU, and Türkiye – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

Source: Anadolu Agency